June 25, 2012
Roberto Luong-no for Leafs?
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
Forget about the whole Roberto Luongo issue for now.
Few think Luongo will be traded from the Vancouver Canucks until after July 1, aka the day that unrestricted free agents become available in the National Hockey League.
A report on Monday stirred the Luongo rumours when it was said that he would not waive his no-trade clause to accept a trade to the Maple Leafs or the Chicago Blackhawks.
But Canucks general manager Mike Gillis has no deal in place with either club and Luongo has not been asked to waive his no-trade clause, sources said. The talk is that Luongo would prefer to be dealt to the Florida Panthers, his former team. The 33-year-old had just finished building a house there not long before he was traded to the Canucks in 2006, and wants to return to the area.
At this point, it’s difficult to believe that Luongo has slammed the door on a couple of possible destinations. Could it happen eventually? Of course. But that time has not been reached. Gillis said during the draft in Pittsburgh on Saturday that he won’t rush into making a trade, and it wouldn’t make sense for Luongo to paint himself into a corner.
There are some who think a Luongo-to-the-Leafs deal can be done, but not before a staring contest between Burke and Gillis sees one of them blink first.
And let’s not forget that Burke stressed on the weekend he thinks James Reimer can be a No. 1 netminder, an opinion backed by assistant general manager Claude Loiselle during an interview with Sportsnet The Fan 590 on Monday morning. They have to think that way, because there is next to nothing in available in free agency if Luongo does not pan out.
Furthermore, Luongo is under contract until 2021-22 to the tune of an annual cap hit of $5.33 million US. The Leafs, if they manage to get their hands on Luongo, had better to be ready to win the Stanley Cup within the next couple of years. The rest of their roster suggests they are not that close.
And if Gillis wants defenceman Jake Gardiner in a deal with Toronto, it won’t be happening.
It’s the same reason the Leafs can probably count themselves out of the Rick Nash sweepstakes. As it is, Nash is thought to have no interest in playing in his home town.
So where do the Leafs go from here? There is money to spend, as they are a shade under $13 million below the salary cap.
The Leafs are going to get in on University of Wisconsin defenceman Justin Schultz, who can’t be signed until Sunday but can start talking to teams. Schultz and his agent, Wade Arnott, will set the course for meetings with teams this week and you can bet the Leafs will want to meet with them in person. But like every other team that talks to Schultz, the sell will be playing time.
Senior vice-president of hockey operations David Nonis reiterated on Monday that the Leafs want to go the trade route to reshape the roster, but also will be looking at depth players in free agency, whether it’s for the bottom part of the NHL roster or with the Toronto Marlies.
There simply will not be a lot available on the open market.
“We might be looking at players who could help the Leafs at a future date,” Nonis said. “With any player, you have to find a good fit to make sure the price is right. I think the trade market will go up once we get past the first couple of days of July. Teams that weren’t able to sign players will be looking to make trades.”
The Leafs got their ball rolling with the acquisition of forward James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. One player won’t a complete recovery make, and heat is on Burke to swing more deals.
Perhaps Bobby Ryan wants to play for the Flyers, but the Leafs have to thoroughly investigate the possibility of acquiring him from Anaheim.
Just one of the many things Burke and Co. has to get done in the coming weeks.
Sundin awaits call from Hall
Mats Sundin will find out on Tuesday whether he will return to Toronto for a momentous celebration in November.